The Allegheny County district attorney's office has launched an investigation into what happened to $4,000 that Glassport police failed to return to a local bar owner when drug charges against him were dropped.
"The fact that money was seized and placed in an evidence locker and turned up missing is unacceptable," said district attorney's office spokesman Mike Manko.
Before the case could make it to trial, a defense attorney argued successfully that police took the cash and about 60 grams of cocaine while executing an illegal search at Chuggers, a restaurant and bar owned by Gregg R. Cegelski.
On May 22, Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen dismissed four criminal charges against Mr. Cegelski, 41, of Glassport, and ordered police to return the money confiscated from his cash register.
Officers testified yesterday that the borough doesn't have a strict procedure for handling evidence and they don't know what happened to the money.
Glassport police recently gave Mr. Cegelski about $140, then he hired an attorney to help reclaim the rest of the money.
Judge Machen yesterday ordered the department to repay Mr. Cegelski the $4,048 he was owed and tacked on $300 for his attorney's fees.
In the meantime, a detective from the district attorney's office will investigate what happened to the money.
Glassport Officer Kevin Wright, who was involved in the drug bust, resigned this week, but local officials said his departure is unrelated to Mr. Cegelski's case.
Officer Wright and his partner, Shawn Deverse, testified at a pretrial hearing that they were doing a sweep of bars along Monongahela Avenue on Jan. 8, 2004, looking for underage drinkers.
The officers said they arrested a 20-year-old at Chuggers, and returned to the station to book him. They later returned to the bar after receiving a phone tip about drug activity there.
At the bar they found several small plastic bags of cocaine in the kitchen and more in the driver's side door of Mr. Cegelski's car.
Gabrielle Banks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1370.